Developing the Home Market in the Face of a Coordinated Attack
CPS Election Analysis 2008 - Week 7
William O’Casey

Guaranteed standards of living for 17 million working Canadians that will not only protect, but in practice increase economic security and well being are possible and well within the capacity of the nation. Even in the present situation where Canada’s economy is dominated by monopoly capital and a Made-in-US economic crisis, brought on by decades of war, occupation and global intimidation, Canada has the economic and resources and capability to prevent the working people from being the main victims of the deepening crisis.
Canada has all the necessary prerequisites to move immediately to a national reconstruction and development agenda. Canada possesses all the resources, science and technology and workers required to undertake national development programs that place millions of people in meaningful well paid employment, thereby increasing the productive capacity of the nation. The development of the home market and breaking the grip of sole market trade agreements are needed to point Canada on a different course. It is not only possible it has become urgent and necessary.
Trading with the world with an expanding inventory of Made in Canada goods is possible. It begins by restoring and expanding Quebec and Ontario’s manufacturing base. Revival and expansion of eastern Canada requires that the nation’s financial and energy resources are placed at the disposal of the Canadian people first. It requires that the entire nation become actively engaged in an effort to tackle all the challenges that a program of such scope would assume. Canada is a nation of builders. Workers are more than capable of leading the nation.
Conditions are shifting – No to Repression – Yes to People’s Democracy
There will be bitter resistence on the part of monopoly capitalism to a country-wide economic development they do not control. They will go to extremes to prevent it. Workers are familiar with employer strategems to cover the outright theft of wages and pensions. The orchestrated G7 plans from Washington are familiar. The instruments of economic power in a time of economic depression are being used to stuff the pockets of finance capital with more cash. Finance capitalist theft in the midst of working class hardship creates conditions for a sharpening of class contradictions. Accompanying the capitalist theft are plans for implementation of ‘emergency measures’ to contain a mounting and explosive anger of overstretched workers suffering from decades of intensified labour exploitation.
The February 2008 Canadian-US military agreement, Civil Assistance Plan, to place US troops on Canadian soil in the event of a ‘civil emergency’ and the redeployment of the US 3rd Infantry’s 1st brigade to the US under the control of FEMA and NORTHCOM is a dangerous development. Assessed from the standpoint of the ‘unprecedented’ coordinated efforts of the finance ministers of the leading NATO nations to manage the failure of the global economic system at the expense of the working people, these developments are a cause for grave concern.
The deployment of military forces poised to intervene domestically, are reactive measures calculated to intimidate and suppress growing anger of the people over years of neo liberal economics and war. The labour movement and the left must remain vigilant about any attempts of the authorities in this country to resort to force to suppress the inevitable mass actions of the people as the depression deepens. The exact opposite is needed in a time of depression and imperialist war, a broadening of the direct participation of the democratic organizations of the people in the first place the organized labour movement. All patronising policies of big business, ‘that they know best’, are over.
Finance Capital Plans to Use the Crisis to Consolidate Its Power Over the Country
Volatility within stock markets is not all it appears to be. It is an opportunity for a coordinated attempt by the leading imperialist powers to concentrate, consolidate and combine capital in larger pools as the growth and capacity of the world’s productive forces outstrips the pace of consumption. What is evident is a massive ‘profit taking’ under the direction and coordination of the US-NATO finance ministers. Their plan is to assign increasing amounts of capital to fund war budgets and armaments production. A new US fomented arms race has instigated at a moment in history when US domination and belligerence is meeting greater resistance from emerging non-belligerent powers in Asia, Europe and South America.
All political parties remained silent during the federal election about the 20 year $492 billion Harper Conservative Canada First Defence Strategy, even as the economic crisis exploded and the banks were being bailed out. All parties are in agreement on this score – whatever happens, they all say the same thing - hands off the military budget.
That is unacceptable to any plan for economic recovery. To restore the economy is dependent on cutting the arms budget in half.
The Bank of Canada Plan for Capitalist Recovery on the Backs of Workers
The Bank of Canada issued a press release on September 25, 2008 commenting on Governor Mark Carney’s speech to the Canadian Club of Montreal entitled, “Reflections on Recent International Economic Developments”. The press release said that Governor Carney argues, “[T]he turmoil may be cathartic in restructuring markets, prompting decisive policy responses and speeding the reordering of the financial system to make the world more stable.”
Governor Carney’s remarks to the Canadian Club reflect a major realignment in the moribund imperialist economic order and sharpening class contradictions within capitalist productive relations. Governor Carney said, “The eventual reordering of the financial system will be historic.”
Just what are those ‘decisive policy responses’? Some of those policy decisions have already been implemented by Finance Minster Flaherty and Governor Carney in Washington along with other G7 finance ministers. Flaherty went to Washington on the pretext of ‘coordinating’ an ‘unprecedented’ attack on the looming economic crisis. Flaherty’s agreements with the other major powers have been taken without receiving any mandate from the Canadian people and bypassing parliament. What is revealed in the ‘bold and decisive’ actions taken by US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in conjunction with other G7 finance ministers can be partially found in the Globe and Mail October 11, 2008 Kevin Carmichael article, “Co-operation among G7 unprecedented”.
Following the G7 meeting in Washington the finance misters said that they will make sure banks "can raise capital from public [FOS emphasis] as well as private sources, in sufficient amounts to re-establish confidence and permit them to continue lending to households and businesses." In other words public coffers are to be plundered to provide ‘liquidity’ to bankers so they can inject it back into the Canadian economy – at a profit of course.
The effects of these ‘bold’ decisions were immediately passed on to the banks. Finance Minister Flaherty in a ‘coordinated’ effort with the Bank of Canada’s Mark Carney removed $25 billion worth of debt from Canadian bank balance sheets placing it on the books of CMHC, while the Bank of Canada’s ½ percent rate cut increased the spread between the banks’ cost of borrowing and what the banks’ charge.
The Bank of Canada drop in interest rates of 500 basis points was followed by a 250 basis point cut by the major Canadian banks widening the spread between what is borrowed and what is lent. Public money being lent to the banks only to offer it back to the public at higher rates – it is double dipping. Canadian Banks will use the federal handout to strengthen their balance sheets and protect their weakening profit margins. In effect, said Queen's University finance professor Louis Gagnon, “They're hoarding cash right now.”
Governor Carney, citing deteriorating conditions in the global capitalist finance system during his remarks to business leaders in Montréal said that the process is “far from finished”. Over extended capital markets, in efforts to shed bad debt resulting from ‘structured vehicles’, is placing downward pressures on smaller capitalized businesses to assume the risk of continued speculative capital mobility. It will remain a long and protracted process. Liberal leader Stephen Dion crows loudly for small and medium sections of capital.
The Governor acknowledged that capital markets are constrained in their ability to pass this debt off in part because of “the desire of investors to ‘time the market’”. In other words large speculative pools of capital remain locked up in the ‘desire’ of investors to seek maximum profit and to hold onto these large pools of capital for speculative purposes, even as the crisis deepens. There are large pools of private capital that can be freed up to invest in national development programs - they exist. Legislation is required to break the control that speculative capital has over the needs of the nation.
Canadians are not Buying the Harper Agenda
With the Canadian election only days away, opinion polls suggest a weakened corporate agenda led by the Harper conservatives. The possibility of a minority government is real. Canadians are signifying that they are not willing to accept more war, economic ruin and job loss. The Dion liberals are opportunistically reaping the anger of workers. The Layton democrats have been pushed into taking up and advancing some demands of workers.
Canadian monopoly power is confronting this new reality and re-evaluating the current relationship with US imperialism – it must. The exposure of the right wing agenda of the Harper neo-cons has signified a qualitative leap in the political understanding of workers questioning the ‘wisdom’ of Bay St. At the same time it places the question of monopoly control of the economy more urgently in front of all Canadians – especially organized labour.
Under monopoly domination, far sighted and planned economic policies of the nation and the needs of workers are subordinated to the cyclical crises of stock markets. The well being of the nation as a whole gives way to the immediate needs of capital to ‘lubricate’ the system. National interests, it is argued by capitalist economists, hinge on the success or failure of the banking system to provide the ‘needed volume of credit’ which a ‘efficient’ functioning economy requires. Coupling the national welfare of the country to the success of the banks and stock markets surreptitiously ties any development programs to anarchic pools of speculative capital and brings the nation to its knees under predatory private capital concentration.
Under these conditions it is then argued by capitalist economists that grand alliances between workers and bankers must be forged to defend the nation from economic failure – to stem the tide of global chaos and protect the ‘vital’ interests of the nation, which it is implied are the banks. This line of political deception requires that labour must work in the interests of the nation and defer their economic demands to a future time when the crisis is averted and the economy regains control and functions ‘normally’.
Putting Monopoly Under Control
Confronting monopoly power means subordinating capital to the needs of the nation. As capitalism goes from one cyclical crisis to the next, each more intense and protracted, taking in a wider swath of working people, so too does the necessity of workers to protect their interests. The contradiction reaches a breaking point when the minimal needs of workers can no longer be satisfied even as the real material productive capacity of workers to produce increases.
The rise in new methods of manufacturing, production and resource extraction and delivery technologies creates conditions to counter runaway unbridled escalations in deregulated speculative and monopoly capital control. The growth of productive forces has presented the need to replace a failed capitalist system with new relations of production, redefining the relationships between labour and capital and posing the need for public centralized and planned development.
Deregulated monopoly capital must be placed under firm control and replaced with policies of Canadian industrial development for the expansion of the home market and trade with the world. Compelling the federal government to assume its responsibility to regulate capital and manage the economy, as a first step, towards policies of crisis prevention, is a precondition for intervention to protect workers’ job, savings, pensions and homes. To force the federal government to act becomes a political struggle.
Looming Depression Conditions – History should be Studied
Global financial uncertainty and instability - the plunder of the world’s resources by the leading imperial powers is rapidly deteriorating into full blown depression. As capitalism becomes a failed system, the leading edge and rising anger of the victims of economic depression demand the mobilization of organized labour. These demands are an urgent necessity and the principal means to address and put forward policies and programs that workers themselves will struggle for and create a new economic reality.
A repeat of the disaster of the Dirty Thirties must be prevented. Following the crash of 1929 a period of a few years passed before the full weight of the depression was passed on to workers. Finance capital during and into the post depression era concentrated political support behind fascist and ultra-right governments that became overt capitalist dictatorships in parts of Europe. This was a response to the development and fight back of labour. Fascism was expressed in Hitlerism that unleashed an imperialist war to destroy the Soviet Union. It was a criminally insane attempt to strangle the rise of the world labour movement led by communists. It left 50 million dead and resulted in the beta test of US nuclear weaponry against the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki becoming US imperialism’s human Petri dish, signifying the type of new world order that US imperialism planned.
Mobilizing Labour in their Own Interests
Those grim days must be recalled if they are to be avoided. National development programs provide the indispensable factor to mobilize workers for peaceful economic demands in their own interests. It is the only way to challenge the legitimacy of monopoly capital over economic development. Programs that cast off the pall of petty bourgeois sensibilities and reconciliatory pleadings with monopoly capital to reform itself, demands strengthening a fractured labour movement dominated to this point by institutionally pampered intellectual thinking dispensing phoney reformist labour theories.
Development of a truly democratic people’s economic program requires that the needs of the working class are addressed first, that any agenda of political and economic demands speaks first to workers. The successful test of such an approach will be the adaptation of those programs and slogans within organized labour. Of critical importance is the question of control and peaceful development of energy and the public ownership and control of the banks and all primary industry.
It is beyond doubt that public ownership and control, development and expansion of energy form the material basis of the way forward for Canada in the 21st Century. Energy in all of its forms constitutes the fundamental starting point for the manufacturer, distribution and the continued growth of material goods and services and the overall welfare of all Canadians. Heavy industry, transportation, agriculture, resources extraction, goods production, social services, education, health and wellness all require sound, integrated, and sustainable deep reserves of readily available energy. Energy is required in all of its contemporary forms including, and for the foreseeable future, liquefied hydro carbon or electricity or a combination of the two. The problem of energy development and the environmental affects of its use cannot be resolved so long as it is privately controlled, extracted, processed and delivered for private profit. Nationalization of the energy sector is an urgent matter of economic survival.
Private for Profit Development Obsolete
Leaving the fate of the nation to the private for profit financial sector abandons workers to the fate of market speculators and gangster capitalism. State intervention in the economy is a prerequisite to place the monopolies under control and return to the working people of Canada a level of economic security in the face of a global realignment of imperialism in the wake of the Made-in-US crisis.
When the capitalist political parties talk about federal government investment in specific sectors of the Canadian economy, such as auto, what they are really saying is that they accept the anarchistic conditions that investment will be subject to. Public investement without public ownership and control is wasteful and futile. Time and again the private sector has taken public money and ran.
Without a plan for central control and command of the economy investment is at the mercy of the private banking, finance and credit system. The choice before labour is becoming clearer - support the present system and accept monopoly power, cyclical fluctuations of the stock markets that abandon the nation to the predatory capital markets flush with cash or fight to put monopoly under control.
In its effective totality vast sums of capital are available to develop a home market. The reality is that this capital is administered and controlled by private interests. They are the custodians of the money resources of the country that are in private hands. These interests administer the savings and pensions of 17 million Canadian workers. This separation between the needs of the nation as a whole and the profit motives of private concerns that derive profits from investment capital deprives workers, who create the wealth of the nation, without any legislated security.
Capitalist party leaders do not have the interests of Canadian people front and centre. What they have as the top priority on their agenda is protecting the domination and control of private capital, both domestic and international, over the economy. Worker’s interests are incidental to that control.
Stephen Harper is working to ensure that monopoly capital emerges unscathed in the current depression, that their profit interests are protected first. He seeks to convince Canadians that their interests and the interests of the country will be protected by finance capital.
Elizabeth May of the Green Party has taken a similar approach announcing in the leaders’ debate that ‘we must protect our corporations’. Jack Layton declared in the same debate that if we ‘stand up for the real economy then the banks will be just fine.’
What do such statements mean for labour? It means that labour must have its own program and fight in its own interests first.
The complete failure of capitalism is evident for all thinking people to see. It has placed squarely in the front of the labour movement an overarching urgency to develop a national economic program for Canadian working families. Working people are being asked by the leaders of the federal political parties to pick the best plan of corporate tax breaks to manage the capitalist crisis. It is not for working people to save the system. It is for working people to fight in their own interests and demand state intervention on programs that protect workers first. Labour can lead the nation.
Left Turn Canada!